17. The Bauhaus and De Stijl

Founded by Walter Gropius in 1919, the Bauhaus ('building house') school of design, craft and architecture gathered together the most progressive artists in Germany and eastern Europe, and exerted a dominating influence on art and design throughout the world that is still felt today.

The Bauhaus was a self-contained center of artistic instruction and culture with tremendous breadth of scope. The leading teachers, together with Gropius, were Feininger, Klee, Kandinsky, Schlemmer and Moholy-Nagy. Klee taught theory, then painting on glass and tapestry; Kandinsky gave lessons in general theory, but concentrated more on abstract composition and monumental painting. Schlemmer and Moholy-Nagy rejuvenated the techniques of working in metal and plastic, the arts of theater and ballet, photography, typography, publicity and so on. Initially very Expressionist in spirit, the Bauhaus aesthetic became increasingly Constructivist and geometric.

First opening its doors in Weimar in 1919, the school moved to Dessau in 1925, and was housed in a new building designed by Gropius himself. In 1932 it moved again, to Berlin, but in the following year pressure from increasingly right-wing German authorities forced its closure.

After the Second World War, however, Bauhaus traditions were continued with the founding under Max Bill of the Hochschule für Gestaltung und Kunst (College of Design and Art) in Ulm. The spirit of the Bauhaus also flourished in the United States, where many of its leading lights took refuge during the Nazi period. Moholy-Nagy established the New Bauhaus (later the Institute of Design) in Chicago; Mies van der Rohe became a towering influence in American architecture; Joseph Albers gave seminal tuition at Black Mountain College in North Carolina, and later at Yale, encouraging a generation of younger American artists and anticipating in his own paintings the development of optical and hard-edged Abstraction.

Paralleling the spread of the Bauhaus ethos from Germany, there emerged in Holland De Stijl, a movement originating in the work of painters like Mondrian and artist-designers like van Doesburg, van der Leck, Reitverl and Vantongerloo. As with the Bauhaus, De Stijl developed an aesthetic of purified geometry, and aimed to unify fine and applied arts. To a great extent the two movements have merged in their huge influence on subsequent art and design developments.

Theo van Doesburg
New Aesthetics for a New World
The Rietveld Schroeder House
Restoration of a De Stijl Interior and Exterior
The Bauhaus
Its Impact on the World of Design
Man and Mask
Oskar Schlemmer and the Bauhaus Stage
The Flame of Functionalism
The Roots of Modern Design in Finland